Books to Prisoners has been donating everything from dictionaries and encyclopedias to biographies and fiction, to inmates since 1973. The Seattle-based group non profit is one of the oldest groups donating books to prisoners in the country, Books to Prisoners are not alone. Over the last few years some prison systems have used the threat of security to try and clamp down on book donations to prisoners. It turns out that the state of Washington’s Department of Corrections has quietly decided to roll out their version of a no book donations policy. According to Books to Prisoner’s Twitter account, it is quiet like a ninja.
Friends, we have a big problem. The Washington DOC quietly rolled out a COMPLETE ban on prison book programs this month. So quietly, in fact, that they didn't bother to tell us first. We only know now because we found this memo on their website today. We're ready to fight it… pic.twitter.com/R55Y0PKQaC
— Books to Prisoners (@B2PSeattle) March 30, 2019
The policy, dated to the middle of March, can be read here. According to the Seattle Times, Books to Prisoners says they looked for the policy change only after recently getting more and more books rejected by prison officials. At issue is that virtually ALL books donated to prisoners and organization facilitating getting donated books to prisoners are by their very nature, “used.” Banning “used” books from non profits completely undermines the whole point. The outcry has led state Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Stephen Sinclair to hazily promise that prisoners wouldn’t be soley dependent on getting books from the places written in the policy announcement, “They won’t all go through the Washington State Library, as they don’t have the resources.” Of course, Sinclair could not explain what those processes would be or might look like. It’s almost as if he didn’t read and comprehend what was written.
Anyone with half-a-mind and heart can see that promoting literacy and opening up the worlds of education and information that reading can offer, is essential to lowering our country’s high recidivism rates.